Bruins center David Krejci scored a goal 5:10 into overtime and added an assist to help bail out the Czech Republic with a 3-2 win over an upstart Latvia squad. Despite outshooting the Latvians 50-26, the Czechs did not play like a heavily favored team and let the less-talented but gritty Latvians hang around.
Latvia's ability to do so was largely thanks to a huge performance by Edgars Masalskis (47 saves) and two third-period goals by Martins Cipulis and Mikelis Redlihs, which forced overtime. But thanks to Krejci, who was the Czechs' best player throughout the game, the Czech Republic escaped and will face Finland in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
After taking an early 2-0 lead on first period goals by Tomas Rolinek and Tomas Fleischmann, the Czechs seemed to sit back a bit. They then watched one of their most skilled players and leaders, Jaromir Jagr, leave with an apprent neck injury. The team was clearly out of sorts, trying to adapt to his absence on offense. Meanwhile, the Latvians continued to build momentum and eventually tied the game and sent it to an overtime period. No one (except maybe the Latvians) in the Thunderbird Arena on the campus of the University of British Columbia campus expected that to happen.
Masalskis was impressive between the pipes, but the Czechs have to be worried heading into their tilt with Finland, as he had allowed a tournament-high 19 goals heading into the game. The Czechs were clearly struggling to finish and also let frustration get the best of them, letting Latvia back into the game.
Jagr is questionable for the Finland game, and the Czech offense is going to have to regroup quickly if it wants to hang with a high-powered Finnish offense, led by Teemu Selanne (two points), Mikko Koivu (three points) and Niklas Hagman (four points). They will also need a better performance from Tomas Vokoun, who made 26 saves but looked shaky as the game went on and almost let in a fluke goal off the boards early in the extra frame.
Czech Republic head coach and former Boston Bruin Vladimir Ruzicka must be happy his team advanced, but he can't be happy with the overconfidence and the apparent sense of entitlement that his team showed. If it happens again, they'll be crushed in an instant by a much better Finland team. The Czechs will need to respect their opponents more, and while that shouldn't be a problem against the silver medal winners from 2006, they need to come out with a much better effort from the opening faceoff. Doing so might start by following the lead of Krejci, who played probably his best game (as a Bruin and for the Czechs) since least season, when he was second on the Bruins in points with 73.
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